HOOVER, Ala. (WBRC) - This is a story about a man whose name should be known in every household in the Hoover, AL area this Fourth of July Saturday. Between grilling hot dogs and dips in the pool, he and others like him should be lauded as we have socially-distanced visits with family and friends. I’m guessing though, he would want nothing of the sort. He probably won’t like having this story written about him, even though his actions last night call for one.
I don’t know him, but I’m sure this man, who I’m going to call “Ponch” for reasons you’ll learn soon, is a “do the right thing” kind of guy. I don’t even have to meet him to know that he is brave, selfless, and compassionate. And I also know that compassion has kept him awake many nights. Last night was one of them.
I gleaned a few things from his Facebook profile. He calls himself Francis Poncherello, a reference to a character on the late 70s, early 80s crime show CHiPs. (It is also why I’m calling him “Ponch.”) He is a fan of the movie Hangover and likes the TV show Hawaii 5-0. There is a touching post he wrote in 2011 about his grandfather when he died. And while none of those things are out of the ordinary or worthy of a news story, here is one he wrote that is:
“I have pondered on posting this but I have to.
I responded to a shots fired call inside the galleria [sic]. With out [sic] thinking I activated my lights and sirens, I was only 5 blocks away. Another officer and I arrived on scene at the same time. I quickly ran into the danger not thinking of anything but the innocents inside that were in danger. As I was walking through the building checking for the danger I noticed a sweet beautiful baby boy laying on the floor hurt and it was bad. I quickly jumped into action “Schylur you have to save this baby” as I sat there holding him treating him with the first aid I knew. I did my best [sic] I tried my best [sic] the medics finnaly [sic] got there after what seamed [sic] forever. I am sorry my sweet angel I’m sorry that the evil In the world found you. You will always be with me. To his parents I am so sorry that this has happened. Royta Giles Jr you fly high dude. For all those that think us cops don’t have a heart you are wrong I am devastated, crushed.”
Ponch is a Hoover City Police Officer. We confirmed that through a reliable source. The post Ponch penned last night has been shared over 4000 times. When hundreds were running out of the Riverchase Galleria Mall last night, he (and dozens of other members of law enforcement) were running toward it.
I have so many questions about him. Does he have a family? What goes through his mind when he gets a call like that one? If he has a wife and children, did they see him walk in the door last night, covered in the blood of an 8-year-old boy who was shot while on a shopping trip with his mom? How many other lives has he tried to save? How many days does he go home “devastated” and “crushed?” Why does he do it?
I doubt I’ll get the chance to ask those questions on the record. I imagine that he is probably too modest to answer. I hope he is not the kind of man who suffers in silence. And I hope he knows that during a time when there are so many headlines about bad cops, that his actions and Facebook post from last night reveal that he is a good cop. And that is headline worthy, too.